In our last installment of articles listing the benefits of music study, we explored the final declaration by the Music Teacher’s National Association (MTNA) that music lessons teach discipline, dedication and enable students to achieve their goals. The MTNA report is backed up by a statement in the American Music Conference’s (AMC) 10 Fast Facts about music study, which concludes that students who make music have been shown to get along better with their classmates and have fewer discipline problems.
There are many different parenting resources stating that music lessons teach discipline, but how is this accomplished? To advance in proficiency with any skill, you must spend time training. Regularly scheduled training sessions at preset intervals for specific minimum amounts of time are usually the most successful way to advance your ability to progress in any skill.
As a child, what is usually the first introduction to this method of learning? The answer for many is piano lessons. Maybe this is why so many children have fought their parents' desire for them to learn the piano until they have given up trying. This experience is usually the first chance a child has to learn the all-important skill of discipline that will heavily influence their future success in both higher education and their career. By not giving up and sticking with piano lessons, children learn skills that are far more important for success than simply being able to play an instrument.
In piano lessons, a child learns to set aside a specific time each day to practice usually for at least 30 minutes, and to follow instructions, all the while learning to use their time responsibly and take care of their instrument. Most children have not done these things before, especially if they are between the ages of six and eight, when many children first begin music lessons. Piano lessons often get a bad rap and evoke a lot of complaints from the children who take them, but these kids are actually complaining about having to learn permanent life skills for the first time that don’t involve a sandbox, plastic shovel and a neighborhood friend. Even a child's early years in grade school rarely require them to spend a minimum of 30 minutes at home each day performing one specific assignment. With a set practice schedule, children will advance more quickly and be rewarded by the satisfaction of incremental success at playing ever-more difficult musical compositions.
Adults often say that it is too late for them to learn an instrument and that they’ve tried but just can’t seem to make any progress. Upon closer inspection, adults will find that they too can successfully learn to play the piano if they just follow the guidelines they set up for their children. It all begins with self-discipline. In a previous article, "The Parent’s Role in Piano Lessons," I detailed the points that lead to success:
1. Make a commitment.
2. Define a schedule.
3. Keep distractions to a minimum.
4. Practice, practice, practice.
5. Encourage your child.
6. Communicate with their teacher.
If children and adults alike will follow these simple guidelines each day, they will learn and enhance their discipline and dedication skills. A major component in learning any skill is setting goals. Each of the steps above will help you learn to set and accomplish goals.
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